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Canadian Youth Are Struggling (But We’re Here to Help)

It seems like technology is taking over our lives. Not only are digital devices ever-present in schools and workplaces, they’re what we often rely on when decompressing after a long day. Off one screen, and onto the next. And with all the restrictions due to COVID-19, people are more likely to stay indoors, interact digitally, and neglect to take breaks for physical activity or to spend time in nature. 

For Canadian youth, the impact is even greater. With smartphones, gaming systems, and modern computers, youth are getting outside less and less. This has contributed to an overall mental health crisis that is negatively impacting our young people. 

But there’s good news, too. Organizations such as Outward Bound Canada (OBC) and the Children and Nature Network (C&NN), are working on ways to re-integrate the outdoors into the lives of children and youth. In 2008, C&NN co-founder Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” as a way to describe the effects of not getting outside enough. Although more research is needed to confirm the specific effects a lack-of-outdoors may have on an individual, C&NN claims “we know enough to act.”

“While research around the negative impacts of not-going-outside may need some gaps filled in, the positive effects of going outside have been confirmed time and again especially when time in nature involves opportunities for self-reflection and interaction with others,” said Dr. Rob Wallis, Principal, Curriculum and Education Manager, OBC. “While time outdoors isn’t a surefire remedy for whatever a youth or young adult may be struggling with, in terms of development and growth, it can equip them with the social and emotional skills, for example mindfulness practices, needed to cope with inevitable stress.” 

Through a research study conducted by Bain & Company, OBC found that 65% of its participants returned home with increased resilience, and 80% said they were more likely to believe in themselves. Additionally, research showed that program completion resulted in a 65% increase in the likelihood of youth completing school. This demonstrates the profound impact that the natural environment has on youth development, even serving as a significant contributor to their academic success. 

The more technology pervades our lives, the harder it becomes to escape. Youth are facing unprecedented burn-out rates and struggling with mental health more than ever before. Whether it’s a simple walk in the park on a regular basis, or a full OBC expedition, it’s important for children to spend enough time outside and away from technology. And with online schooling becoming the norm for many, this need will only become greater. 

To see a listing of OBC courses for 2021, please click here.  

Article contributed by Adrian Schaap